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Lego noise

Built environment … Lego White Noise packs a powerful nostalgic punch. (Photo by Lego)

By John Moran, The Guardian | With the soothing noise of its bricks clicking against one another, Lego White Noise joins the ranks of great musique concrète – and documents a potentially doomed sound. Out of my headphones comes a flow of odd, weirdly tactile sound: what could be an army of ants marching across a plain of contact mics, a landslide of scree recorded from a mile away, or perhaps the first field recording taken from Ingenuity, the tiny robotic helicopter currently flying sorties above the Martian landscape. Delicate clicks, burring friction and the waterfall-like spatiality of granular flow all galvanise my ears.

It’s the sort of thing that may interest subscribers to The Wire magazine, or that an underground musician usually seen sweating over a badly soldered modular synth could make in a moment of calm. This is Lego White Noise, and while it definitely sounds like experimental music, the name makes it clear that this is the work of the world’s most “reputable brand”.

The project was devised by Lego’s “head of creative” Primus Manokaran, who describes the streaming-only album as “a collection of soundscapes” designed to promote relaxation and mindfulness. Although the seven tracks, which each run to half an hour in length, are different in their granular details, essentially they were made by Lego pieces being poured out of tubs, sifted through and clicked together.

Manokaran’s team began thinking about why people love Lego during lockdown, and realised that a big hook was how it sounds. Inspired by the online craze for white noise as an aid to relaxation and focus, they began recording. “The acoustic properties of each brick was slightly different,” he says. “It was like composing with 10,000 tiny instruments.”

They used as many different Lego elements as possible – from outsized toddler-friendly Duplo bricks to tiny minifigure heads – to create a wide range of raw sound, without using much in the way of audio processing bar some EQing, and reverb to create ambience.

The album covers more ground than you might imagine. Built For Two is the classic sound of a Lego build: the painstaking search for the right piece typified by bricks being scraped across baseplates and the swish of elements being brushed left and right, but it is essentially abstract noise. Searching For the One (Brick), on the other hand, has a tangible structure. A hand rustles through a chaos of elements and then plinks a single piece on to a separate pile at distinct intervals (a process definitely enhanced by sequencing and looping). So there are two unique “song” styles on this album – that’s the same number as Oasis featured on their debut and one more than the Libertines achieved in their entire career, so who are we to say this isn’t music?

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